Were stereoscopic pictures taken during the Apollo missions?

Did the astronauts of the Apollo 11, 12, 14-17 take stereoscopic pictures of the lunar landscape?

I know many stereoscopic images were taken by the US probes that landed on Mars but I cannot find similar pictures for the Moon.

I would be especially interested to see such double photos that show distant hills or mountains in the background.


Using your answers I finally found what appears to be stereo pictures showing lunar mountains. One example is the anaglyph labeled AS15-82-11053/4. However, there should not be shifts between the cyan and red pictures for the distant mountains as long as the two colors perfectly match in the case of the closest mountain to the camera.

From your answers, I can infer that true stereo pictures, taken from the surface of the Moon by the astronauts, showing distant mountains in the background, do not exist and what can be found on the internet are simply things that imitate up to a certain point true anaglyphs.

AS15-82-11053/4 Red-Blue Anaglyph AS15-82-11053/4 Red-Blue Anaglyph, Apollo 15. (Source)

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    $\begingroup$ You can see some of the faux stereoscopic pictures mentioned in Tom Spilker's answer in my question When was stereoscopic photography first used intentionally on solar system body? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 29 '18 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Answers should not be included in the question text. You should undo your last edit and post what you added as your own answer below. $\endgroup$ – Will Oct 30 '18 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ I did things like that in the past with different questions and I was advised, then, to update my question (provide more explanations) rather than post an answer. In this particular case what I added is not really an answer to my own question but some additional information that can help other users understand exactly what I want. $\endgroup$ – Robert Werner Oct 30 '18 at 17:03

Yes indeed, stereo images are available from the Apollo missions.

Apollos 11, 12, & 14 carried a stereo camera for taking close-up images of the lunar soil, small rocks, & other small items of interest. The Planetary Society has some of these images converted to anaglyphs (the red-blue or red-green method).

Also, sets of other non-stereo images have been "re-mapped" to synthesize stereo pairs, as done for Apollo 11 and Apollo 14 images.

Per Astronaut Still Photography During Apollo (found in this answer):

The Apollo 11 Kodak Stereo Close-Up Camera

Seven months prior to the Apollo 11 mission, a new camera was commissioned by NASA. The camera would be used by the crew to take close-up stereo views of the lunar soil and rocks. The camera had a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, an aperture of f/22.6, film was held approximately 10 inches from the lunar surface, and lighting was provided by an integral electronic flash.

The camera was designed for ease of use by the astronaut in his bulky pressure suit. The camera was rested on the soil and the astronaut would simply press down on a trigger on a long handle to expose the frames. Each exposure resulted in two side-by-side photographs of the same area of the surface. The surface photographed measured three inches by three inches. The size of the exposed film was one inch square.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you know of anywhere to view the original images side by side instead of anaglyph? $\endgroup$ – Skyler Oct 29 '18 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Skyler, the raw images are available from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal pages. Most of the non-stereocamera pairs are accidental (panorama sets where the photographer stepped to the side while turning), but some are deliberate (such as this pair left right from Apollo 15). $\endgroup$ – Mark Oct 30 '18 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Thanks much for finding the raw images! If you can free-view stereo pairs you can view these in 3D without a viewer. On a display screen you put the right-side image on the left, the left-side image on the right, then cross your eyes to merge the images. Your right eye is looking at the image on the left (the one intended for your right eye) and your left eye is looking at the image on the right. When the images aren't well-registered to begin with, like the Apollo 15 pair you reference, it can take some jockeying—masking parts of an image, tilting your head, etc. $\endgroup$ – Tom Spilker Oct 30 '18 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ You may already be a winner! Is the soil camera an answer to When was stereoscopic photography first used intentionally on solar system body? as well? If so, you don't have to leave a full-blown spilker special answer. A short one there, referencing this answer for details would be fine. I would assume this is the first, so I think it's a winner. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 8 '18 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ I've used your links here, thank you. Anything else to add? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 5 '18 at 10:57

Apollo 15, 16, 17 used the Lunar Mapping and Panoramic Cameras mounted in the forward portion of the Apollo Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) in bay 1 of the Service Module.

The camera system consisted of a 76-mm (3-in.) Fairchild mapping camera (SIM3) using 5-in. film, a 3-in. stellar camera using 35-mm film, and a laser altimeter.

The mapping camera system flight plan was devised to provide 78% overlap between successive images photographed in the same pass, when the spacecraft was at the altitude at which the velocity/height (V/H) sensor was set, and approximately 55% sidelap between adjacent photographic passes; the stellar camera (SIM4) provided attitude information; and the laser altimeter (SIM2) provided measured distance from spacecraft to lunar surface in synchronism with each mapping camera exposure. The 78% overlap provided stereo coverage that can also be used for topographic information.

So stereoscopic images of hills or mountains were possible, but only viewed from orbit, not from lunar surface. I found no anaglyph images prepared using these cameras. There may be some to find by somebody else with more luck or by very intensive searching.

Quotes from a NASA paper. See also this NASA page about the SIM bay cameras.


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